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NYU law professor on what she'll be paying attention to ahead of Trump's sentencing

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

We're going to turn now to Melissa Murray. She's a professor at New York University Law School and coauthor of the book "The Trump Indictments: The Historic Charging Documents With Commentary." She joins us now. Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

MELISSA MURRAY: Thanks for having me.

CHANG: So I know that you've spent a lot of time thinking through the various cases facing former President Trump. What's your reaction to this verdict today?

MURRAY: Well, it was a very speedy verdict, and I can only chalk that up to the fact that New York jurors probably want to get their entire weekend out in front of them.

CHANG: (Laughter).

MURRAY: And there is a Friday tomorrow, so there's that. Jurors are practical organisms. But one of the things I think is really important to stress here - and Andrew and I said this a lot while we were working on the book, "The Trump Indictments" - was that if the government in all four of these indictments could bring hard evidence to trial to back up the allegations that were presented in those indictments, we would get guilty verdicts on all four cases. And I think that's right. The allegations that were presented in all four indictments were really damning. The New York hush money case, as it's known, was probably the least consequential of them, given that some of the other cases involved election interference and the retention of classified documents. But with hard evidence, the government was able to craft a narrative that resonated with these jurors and that they could sort of piece together with the law and come up with these verdicts.

CHANG: Of course, now former President Trump faces a sentencing on July 11. But there's also, you know, this question of whether this verdict will have political consequences for him on the campaign trail because, of course, he is running for president. In terms of voters, it remains to be seen how these convictions will play. So just remind us, does the Constitution say anything about a convicted felon running for office, particularly the presidency?

MURRAY: Surprisingly, it does not. This is an open question, one that, if Donald Trump wins in November, will certainly become a constitutional issue.

CHANG: And what about voting? Could this verdict, these convictions on 34 counts, impact former President Trump's ability to vote for himself - barring any appeals, of course?

MURRAY: Well, he's currently registered in Florida, as we've been told, and Florida, a few years ago, passed a ballot initiative that allowed former felons, those who had been convicted of felonies, to be reenfranchised. But that ballot initiative has sort of faced an uphill battle with Florida's governor, Ron DeSantis, who has thrown up a number of roadblocks to having it enforced. So right now, it seems, although there is certainly a legal mechanism to reenfranchise the now-convicted Donald Trump, it would really have to go to the governor to provide an avenue for enforcing that law that Florida voters passed a couple of years ago.

CHANG: So what are you going to be paying attention to specifically as we approach the July 11 sentencing date?

MURRAY: So I think one of the big questions here is whether or not Donald Trump is actually going to be sentenced to prison - to any kind of prison time in New York. And I think it's probably unlikely given the nature of these charges. Four years incarceration was sort of the top sentence that could be levied, but Donald Trump doesn't have a recorded history of criminality. He has no prior criminal convictions. All of that would go into what is known as a pre-sentencing report that Judge Merchan would consider and would consult in ultimately crafting his sentence. It may be more likely that we see the kinds of sanctions that are alternatives to incarceration, like probation, for example, or maybe house arrest. But I'm not sure we're going to see Donald Trump in an orange jump suit going to Rikers Island. Although, of course, I could be wrong about all of this, but it seems unlikely.

CHANG: That is Melissa Murray, professor of law at NYU and author of "The Trump Indictments." Thank you so much.

MURRAY: Thanks for having me.

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Jordan-Marie D Smith
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.